Summer Seminars 2017: Now Accepting Applications


Schools and universities need support if they are to perform their proper function. For over a decade, the Witherspoon Institute has helped the university accomplish its purpose through its summer programming. Each summer, we make courses available for high school students, undergraduates, and graduate and professional school students. Drawing on accomplished faculty, and held in Princeton, our seminars invite students to read, argue, learn, and willingly listen and engage each other and the texts. Our seminars encourage the formation of Socratic friendships and the fostering of civility.

For the summer of 2017, the Institute is pleased to offer the following seminars (please follow the links for dates and application information):

Moral Life and the Classical Tradition, for rising high school juniors and seniors interested in the ancient philosophical tradition and its influence in Christian moral life.

First Principles Seminar, for advanced undergraduate and pre-dissertation graduate students with interests in natural law and moral or political philosophy.

Natural Law and Public Affairs Seminar, for advanced undergraduate and graduate students interested in normative ethics and contemporary applications, as well as recent graduates and young professionals in policy or law.

The Thomistic Seminar: Themes in Aquinas and Charles Taylor, for graduate students in philosophy and related disciplines.

Medical Ethics: A Natural Law Perspective, for medical students who seek insight on the most important ethical questions that arise in the everyday practice of medicine.

Moral Foundations of Law, for students of the law interested in investigating the relationship between sound norms of critical morality and civil law.

It’s easy to be discouraged at the troubles of our time, but the task of education remains as it ever was: to cultivate and practice the virtues of “dispassion, intellectual humility, openness of mind and above all, love of truth,” as Robert P. George, Herbert W. Vaughan Senior Fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, recently described it. In doing so, we become free even as we contribute to the freedom of others and the rebuilding of the cultural and intellectual life of our polity.

We hope you’ll join us in this effort. We invite you to consider attending one of our seminars and encourage you to pass the word on to your own students, children, and friends.


Moral Life and the Classical Tradition (Women: June 18-24, 2017 Men: June 25- July 1, 2017)
This seminar for rising high school juniors and seniors will introduce students to the ancient philosophical tradition and its influence in the Christian moral life. Topics will include the nature of the philosophy, the relationship of faith and reason, the Judeo-Christian tradition and scientific inquiry, sexual ethics, marriage and family, and biomedical ethics.
Application deadline: April 2



Medical Ethics: A Natural Law Perspective (June 25-July 1, 2017)
  This seminar for students of medicine will examine the most important ethical questions that arise in the everyday practice of medicine, including freedom of conscience, proportionality, human dignity, sexuality and reproduction, and life issues.
Applications for this seminar are rolling.



First Principles: Natural Law and the Theologico-political Question (July 9–22, 2017)
  This seminar for advanced undergraduate and pre-dissertation graduate students focuses on the relation between natural law and the theologico-political question, that is, the question of the best way of life, enshrined in the best laws, supported by the best form of political regime. Readings will be drawn from Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, Etienne Gilson, and Harry Jaffa.
Application deadline: April 16


Moral Foundations of Law (July 30–August 5, 2017)
This seminar for students of law will consider the relationship between morality and civil law, covering the history and development of legal theory, the positivism-natural law debate, constitutionalism and the judiciary, the nature of punishment, and contemporary social moral debates in the law.
Application deadline: April 2


Natural Law and Public Affairs (August 2–6, 2017)
This seminar for advanced undergraduate and graduate students will consider natural law moral reasoning and its application to a variety of moral and political issues, including religious liberty, economic justice, just war and capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, and marriage and sexuality.
Application deadline: March 19


Thomistic Seminar: Themes in Aquinas and Charles Taylor ( August 6–12, 2017)
This seminar for graduate students in philosophy and related disciplines will examine mind and action, embodiment and selfhood, the individual and society, morality and disagreement, and secularism and religion in the works of Thomas Aquinas and Charles Taylor.
Application deadline: March 26.